Fires

Aerial photos of Oakland warehouse reveal extensive fire damage, instability

Inspectors launched probe into artist workspace in November, but could not get inside

 

The condition of the California warehouse damaged by a massive and deadly fire has severely slowed down recovery efforts as crews tried to identify more of the victims Tuesday, and as families and friends sought answers.

New aerial photos showed the extensive damage the Ghost Ship Warehouse sustained when the fire broke out during a late-night party on Friday night in Oakland. The building’s roof was destroyed and the steel beans that held the structure together swirled and shifted because of the heat of the fire.

OHIO FIREFIGHTER SHOT, WOUNDED WHILE ON SCENE OF HOUSE FIRE

Officials said they have seen the building’s walls continue to deteriorate since the fire and that it has been getting worse as time goes on.

Work inside the building resumed after it was stopped for several hours Monday. One wall was seen leaning several inches inward, posing a potential safety hazard for firefighters.

INSIDE LEGAL FALLOUT FROM DEADLY OAKLAND WAREHOUSE FIRE

Oakland Fire Batallion Chief Robert Lipp said about 85 percent of the building has been searched and cleared by the crew on the scene. However, one corner of the building remains inaccessible because it’s unstable.

The death toll remained at 36 on Tuesday with no changes overnight in the number of bodies recovered from the remains.

Alameda County Sheriff's Deputy Tya Modeste says 36 bodies have been recovered and 26 of their families have been notified. Modeste says another nine bodies have been "tentatively identified." Officials are still lacking any type of identity for one individual.

“Our hope is not to find any more (victims),” Lipp said during a press conference. “We want to completely clear the building.”

The building’s structure and safety has reportedly been on the city officials’ radar for some time and questions have emerged about whether more could have been done to prevent the fire.

Oakland planning officials opened an investigation last month after repeated complaints about the warehouse. An inspector who went to the premises couldn't get inside, said Darin Ranelletti of the Oakland Planning Department.

Once the building is cleared, the investigation will turn to the cause of the fire. The district attorney warned of possible murder charges as she determines whether there were any crimes linked to the blaze.

"We owe it to the community and those who perished in this fire, and those who survived the fire to be methodical, to be thorough, and to take the amount of time it takes to be able to look at every piece of potential evidence," Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said.

Shelley Mack, who lived at the “Ghost Ship” for several months about two years ago, said the building was a “death trap.”

The building was crammed with rugs, old sofas and a garage-sale-like collection of pianos, paintings, turntables, statues and other items that quickly fed the flames.

"I didn't think it was going to last this long before it went up or somebody shut it down,” she said.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said city officials are putting together a record of what they knew about the property.

The property's manager, Derick Ion Almena, told San Jose television station KNTV he didn't know the event was taking place, and he wasn't at the warehouse Friday night because he and his wife had decided to stay at a hotel because he was exhausted and their children had school.

"We're sorry to the families and all the friends that have lost loved ones," he said. "I gladly would give my entire life of fortune, of wealth of experience again and again and again, and I say this to you and I say this to the camera and to whoever is watching me that I surrender everything."

Almena stood near the gutted warehouse Tuesday morning and said he was "incredibly sorry," and that everything he did was to bring people together.

Almena told NBC's "Today" show on Tuesday that he was at the site to put his face and his body in front of the scene. But, he deflected blame for the blaze. He said he signed a lease for the building that "was to city standards supposedly."

"I'm only here to say one thing that I'm incredibly sorry and that everything that I did was to make this a stronger and more beautiful community and to bring people together," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.